The Biden administration is continuing to pressure Israel to ratchet down its military operation against terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. United States National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said as much during an interview with CBS News’ Margaret Brennan.
Kirby emphasized the administration’s desire for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to shift to “low intensity operations.”
I can tell you – and Secretary Blinken just came from the region – that we have been talking to them intensely about a transition to low intensity operations. We believe it’s the right time for that transition, and we’re talking about doing that.
Now, they have done some precursory steps to try to kind of get to that point. They were pulling some troops out. They’re relying a little less on air strikes. But we believe that – look, any military campaign you go through phases. And the next logical phase here, as they have put pressure on Hamas leadership, is to get to lower intensity operations, more targeted, more precise raids, less air strikes. We believe it’s time to make that transition, and we have had that conversation with them.
Kirby’s comments come just over 100 days after the war in Gaza was ignited when Hamas launched a bloody surprise attack on Israel on October 7, 2023. The IDF’s retaliation was swift and fierce and Israeli troops are currently working to eliminate and dismantle the terrorist organization, which has ruled Gaza since 2007.
As Kirby alluded to, Israel recently withdrew thousands of troops from the region. Reports suggested that the move was intended to support Israel’s economy. But other outlets indicated that the move was also due to pressure from the White House.
The Associated Press indicated that the move was prompted by the Biden administration pressuring Israel to de-escalate its military offensive in Gaza.
The troop movement could signal that fighting is being scaled back in some areas of Gaza, particularly in the northern half where the military has said it is close to assuming operational control. Israel has been under pressure from its chief ally, the United States, to begin to switch to lower-intensity fighting.
Word of the drawdown came ahead of a visit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region and after the Biden administration bypassed Congress for the second time this month to approve an emergency weapons sale to Israel.
A former Israeli military officer also indicated that pressure from the White House could be motivating the drawdown in troops.
Shlomo Brom, a retired brigadier general once in charge of strategic planning in the Israeli military, said the troop changes may be a result of the U.S. pressure. He said it indicated a shift in how Israel was conducting the war in some areas.
“The war is not stopping,” said Brom. “It is the beginning of a different mode of operation.”
Israel has resisted calls for a ceasefire and to pull back on its operations in Gaza. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear that the war against Hamas is far from over, indicating it may go on for “many, more months.”
Kirby acknowledged that Hamas is “still a viable threat” and affirmed that Israel has “every right and responsibility to go after” the terrorist organization. “It’s just that we believe the time is coming here very, very soon for a transition to this lower intensity phase,” he added.
However, the threat posed by Hamas remains despite the progress the IDF has made in dismantling the group’s operations. Reducing military pressure on the organization could enable it to regroup and maintain its presence in the region, a scenario Israel wishes to avoid.
The reality is that as long as Hamas exists, there can be no hope for peace in Gaza. The terrorist group’s ultimate stated objective since the time it was created in the 1980s is the destruction of Israel and genocide against the Jewish people. The attack on October 7 was the most successful assault the group has made against Israel and the Jewish state cannot risk another such assault. At this point, the annihilation of Hamas has to be the top priority before peace can even be considered.